Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eleanor Roosevelt, Joe Lash & J. Edgar Hoover

That image you see on the left is from Eleanor Roosevelt's FBI files. If you click on it and are able to read the small print, you'll have read the short version of what I'm blogging about.

The FBI had over 3,900 pages of files on Eleanor Roosevelt, forced free by the Freedom of Information Act. This is one of the largest collection of files ever made by the FBI on an American citizen, let alone a First Lady. These files were compiled by the FBI, mostly at the behest of what we now know was a detestable little cross-dressing creature, known as J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover ran the FBI, like a dictator, from its founding, in 1935, til his death in 1972.

Hoover was able to last at his position through President after President, til he met his match in Nixon, by compiling dossiers of info on anyone he wanted to have influence over. Presidents were sort of scared of J. Edgar Hoover. And with good reason.

I just finished a book called Roosevelt's Secret War, by Joseph E Persico. FDR did not care for J. Edgar. But he found him useful.

Eleanor Roosevelt befriended a young man named Joe Lash, who was 25 years her junior. There were no allegations of anything improper in this relationship. Til J. Edgar saw an opportunity. The First Lady and Joe Lash were in Chicago at a hotel. They stayed in adjoining rooms. The FBI had Joe Lash under surveillance, I don't remember why. A lot of people were watched by the FBI during WWII. Sort of like what goes on now, during our less sensible war, under our less sensible President.

So. J. Edgar had those hotel rooms bugged. J. Edgar heard something useful to his purposes, recorded from that hotel room. He felt he had to get the info to the President somehow, in a way that sort of kept his hands clean. J. Edgar had had clashes with the First Lady. She was on his enemies list.

So, a report found its way to the President which contained the info that a microphone planted in the room had recorded the clear indication that Mrs. Roosevelt and Lash engaged in sexual intercourse during their hotel stay. Mrs. Roosevelt was called into the conference, confronted with the charge, which resulted in a terrific fight between the President and Mrs. Roosevelt.

FDR sent orders to have Lash sent outside the United States within 10 hours.

Now. Here's the bad part. What really happened was J. Edgar's microphones had caught Joe Lash making whoopee with a married lady, 2 weeks after he'd been in that hotel with Mrs. Roosevelt.

Nothing untoward was recorded between Mrs. Roosevelt and Mr. Lash. It is believed J. Edgar Hoover was fully aware of the truth. But saw an opportunity to do some dirty manipulating.

To what gain, I can't fathom. J. Edgar Hoover kept these secret files in his possession til his death. I don't know if the goal for his little dirty trick was to make Mrs. Roosevelt think he was a powerful foe, not to be crossed. Or if it was to ingratiate himself, somehow, with FDR. Or both.

Who knows? But, what I found interesting is our nation has always seemed to be quite a roller coaster of dicey doings that aren't pretty at times.

J. Edgar Hoover was one twisted sister.


The Undercover Centrist: Politics, Policy, Truth said...

The various dirty tricks of the Hoover years show that democracy is still very much the doman of the old boys club and dirty back room tricks. Voting and such merely gives it a veneer of sensibility. Then again that truth has always been acknowledged which is why the press exist, and why they are and should be protected.
The Undercover Centrist: politics and all that

Ben said...

You left out the part of Joe Lash serving for the Soviet Union, which is why he was being surveilled by the FBI in the first place. Through the Amerasia spy ring Lash played a major role in the decimation of the Chinese Nationalists and allowing China to fall into the hands of the Communists. Given that FDR's White House was rife with Communist spies (need I recall Lauchlin Currie), I'd say Edgar Hoover was dead right keeping tabs on Soviet-inspired infiltration.

Mark LaRochelle said...

Actually, the surveillance was not conducted by the FBI, but by Army Intelligence (G-2). The surveillance was not of Mrs. Roosevelt, but of Joe Lash, an Army draftee who had been leader of the American Student Union, a popular front group funded by the Communist Party during the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Lash was married to Gertrude Pratt, a contact of Aleksej Sokirkin, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. for Soviet intelligence, which was cultivating Mrs. Pratt as a conduit to the First Lady. The recording was played for FDR not by the FBI, but by G-2. The FBI didn't learn of this surveillance until after the Army had played this recording for the President.